Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2023

Budget cap means Ferrari must ‘be patient’ in pursuit of Red Bull – Leclerc

2024 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc is encouraged by the progress Ferrari has made with their SF-23 car in recent races, but accepts he will have to be patient to see how quickly they can catch this year’s champions Red Bull.

Ferrari have enjoyed a strong run of races since the summer break as they have made progress with understanding their SF-23 and brought upgrades for it, including an upgraded floor at the last race in Japan.

“After Monza, we understood more things which are good for this year – even though it will be a small step in the right direction – but mostly for designing next year’s car, which is positive,” said Leclerc. He finished fourth for the third race in a row at Suzuka, while his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr has taken two podiums in that time including the only win for a driver outside Red Bull.

Leclerc said the progress the team has made also vindicates the design direction they have taken for next season.

“The 2024 project is very different to the car we have this year,” he said. “And this [run of form], with everything we’ve learned so far, it reaffirms that it’s a good choice what we’ve done for next year. And then the more we learn, the better it is for doing the last few details for next year’s car. So it’s super-important.”

Their form in recent races will embolden the team to commit to their new design for next year, said Leclerc. “It was really good to understand that also before the end of the season because we’ve still got quite a few races, so we can maybe push a bit more in that direction.”

The practice sessions for the first two races after the summer break at Zandvoort and Monza were key as “there were things that we retested in Monza to make sure that it was really the case, and it was,” said Leclerc.

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But while Leclerc is pleased with the direction Ferrari has taken, he understands the budget cap means they can’t progress at the kind of rate which was once possible.

“You need to be a bit more patient,” he said, “but I guess it’s the same for everybody.

“We’ve still got the simulator to test those things, so I can virtually be excited until next year. In the meantime, I just need to do the best job possible with what we have at the moment.”

With six races still to go this year, Leclerc hasn’t yet seen much of what the team has in store for 2024.

“To be honest, for now, I don’t have the vision yet because it’s still very early days. I only report Fred [Vasseur, team principal’s] words that we’re saying that the project is very different for next year.

“As drivers, you of course say what are the weaknesses of this car. The engineers are working, they came back to me telling me that it will be quite different for next year. And now I’m waiting for testing the car as quickly as possible on the simulator.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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29 comments on “Budget cap means Ferrari must ‘be patient’ in pursuit of Red Bull – Leclerc”

  1. Well budget cap doesn’t seem to stop McLaren from making steps forward – agree starting way back makes it easier but McLaren at some circuits are now ahead of Ferrari. The budget cap also doesn’t seem to stop Mercedes doing a whole load of development including a complete new car/logic.

    Bad news for those chasing Red Bull, the 7% extra restriction on CFD & Windtunnel has come to an end, Red Bull now has 70% again.
    Ferrari did get 85% instead of 75% already since July, also McLaren got 5% more while Mercedes got 5% less.
    Alonso for sure will not be happy as Aston Martin got more restricted going from 100% to 80% in July and it is visible in their development rate although doubt it is the main cause.

    1. The budget cap excuse always make me want to scream. Massive spending has NEVER allowed a team to break the dominance of another team without a rule change. And two designers, Newey and Brawn, are responsible for developing the cars that have won every single WCC/WDC in the last 30+ years (Renault / Alonso’s two consecutive titles being the only break).

      The only place the budget cap is unfair is for teams like Williams who need to able to vastly improve their infrastructure. Besides that, the budget cap is only helping competition in every way. Kind of nice to not hear about 2-3 teams not being on the brink of bankruptcy every season too.

  2. The budget cap has shifted the paradigm from Brute force trial and error to innovative skills and competences.

    Hiring, training, education and inspiration for designers and engineers has become more important. Learning how to use the limited resources you have got, what to test in cfd and windtunnel and what not to test.

    It’s no longer only about analyzing giant piles of data and acquiring as much data as possible to analyze. Being more efficient and effective has become far more important.

    1. Indeed. And none of these have been Ferrari traits, so their struggle is arguably bigger than other teams, as its a whole culture shift.

      1. It was Ferrari who showed up with arguably the best car in early 2022. Not McLaren, not Renault, not Williams, not Aston Martin – not even Mercedes. To be fair; Red Bull had a better core concept, but it was overweight to begin with.

        Furthermore, Ferrari keeps finishing in the top three of the championship. They’ve done so for decades with a mere handful of exceptions. But they seem to be the only team where anything but domination is regarded as a failure. It’s a compliment of sorts, but it exaggerates their shortcomings when it doesn’t happen.

    2. Agreed, it really highlights how efficient Red Bull are versus everyone else.

      1. You could say that but don’t forget they broke it in the first place. You could be dismissive of the amount but when a budget cap’s involved every penny makes a huge difference.

        1. Of course every penny is important, but even with breaking the budget cap you have to be very careful where you spend your money. Proof of that is McLaren, if you look at how they evolved compared to other teams and that without breaking the budget cap you know that how you spend money these days is much more important than how much you spend.

      2. Billy Rae Flop
        2nd October 2023, 14:46

        Does really? Maybe it does and maybe not. Them being the best doesn’t necessarily meaning they are most efficient. Finding a concept that works well and sticking with it, especially considering they seemed to be alone in it (sidepods?) Isn’t necessarily effective or efficient. You could argue McLaren has been more efficient due to their rapid turn out, but even that isn’t necessarily true..

        It’s like when a driver wins a race and sensationalism dictates to celebrate this the most of all others. Yet there can be and often are better performances during a race from other drivers and/or teams and it’s pretty difficult to know especially without very thorough analysis

      3. having a B team seems to be a considerable advantage

    3. +1 correct! skill is now what count and massive data testing doesn’t work anymore (untill you runout and still doesn’t have the right stuf)

  3. Is it a completely crazy idea to stagger the budget cap from 1st place to last? 1st in WCC gets least budget to work with, last place gets most. To stay on top you need to develop well with less budget, and obviously you have your supposed advantage that won you the WCC last season. It might be a bit redundant since the backmarkers might not reach budget cap anyway – not sure about the data on this to be honest (anyone?).

    Not talking about an outrageous range, say 120m – 135m? (current cap is 135m?) It may seem a bit anti-competition but if it ends up with less 1-team domination scenarios, then i’d be up for it. I’m a Mclaren fan and I can’t say i’d even enjoy Mclaren dominating week in week out like RB are at the moment, you want a fight at least. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was saying the other day, if RB weren’t in this championship – well, if Max wasn’t – it would be absolutely fantastic to watch, Singapore showed that.

    1. @frankjaeger The wind tunnel restriction is basically meant to simulate this effect – advantaging the slower teams while disadvantaging the faster ones. You can argue that in itself isn’t making enough of a difference, but the idea is similar.

      The problem with the budget cap being set by your WCC finishing position is that teams would therefore have a variable budget each year, which they won’t know with certainty in advance. And your budget cap affects things like your staffing levels. So you could have a situation where say Williams has an amazing year and catapults themselves up from 8th to 2nd in the WCC in one year. The employees’ rewards for their efforts could be being laid off because the team can no long afford to keep them on payroll under their new, reduced budget cap for the following year. Then maybe they fall back down the order in the next year, and have to undergo a recruitment drive to refill those positions to bring them up to their increased budget cap level. It would be a lot more difficult to manage from an operational point of view than the FIA just restricting how much the teams can use a valuable resource like wind tunnel time.

  4. What sport has taken over the pinackle of motorsport spot in terms of development and race to race technical inprovement?

    1. not sport but the best skilled engineers……

      1. I miss those days amd the sounds it made

  5. RBR isn’t at fault if the clown in charge of negotiations on behalf of Ferrari with both F1/FOM didn’t foresee this coming. At one time, Binotto was bragging about the fact that Ferrari made concessions with regard to the budget cap, the PU freeze and the 2026 PU rules.

    Unbelievable that an engine engineer agreed to a PU freeze, sidelining the ICE and dropping the MGU-H. Ferrari should have vetoed the PU freeze, compelling RBR to obtain their PUs through the legal framework, leading them to the Renault PU. They should have also vetoed the 2026 engine rules that make it impossible for a manufacturer to get it wrong the way Honda did in 2015.

    RBR masterfully influenced the regulations, emphasizing chassis and aerodynamics as the primary performance differentiators, leveraging their unrivalled expertise in those fields. In contrast, Ferrari missed an opportunity to challenge the 2009 testing ban, despite the budget cap era. Teams should have the freedom to choose their methods within the budget cap, making the testing ban unnecessary.

    The thing is, these unsuccessful team principals would still secure seven-figure jobs !

    1. Second it. Too many years the red team is run by idiots.
      What’s more key element in a sport car? Simply: bring out aero bits, chassis, bodywork and keep engine, wheels, petrol tank, steer and all mechanical parts, the car goes. Bring out only the engine, ice and or electric, still the car go??

    2. It’s called MOTOR-sport. This say everything.

    3. 1 of the most important thing is geting their Veto cancelled…

      1. @macleod
        Jean Todt made every effort to remove Ferrari’s veto power, but his attempts were futile. Ferrari last exercised the veto when Marchionne opposed Todt’s impractical proposal to sell hybrid power units at a loss, a move contradicted by the substantial investments manufacturers had made in their development. The veto was a non-negotiable condition for Ferrari to stay in F1. Therefore, Liberty had no choice but to accept it.

      2. And race F1 with four cylinder inline engines? And hand them out at a loss?

        No thanks.

        Ferrari’s veto is not just theirs, it’s the veto of F1’s soul and history.

    4. This is all very true. After Marchionne, Ferrari was a politically weak operation. Still is to a degree. Others exploited this, and did that so well that Binotto even proclaimed their ‘compromise’ a success for Ferrari. It was … odd. Let’s say odd.

      1. MichaelN,
        Certainly, as a casual fan, I frequently expressed my frustrations on the proper forum whenever Binotto discussed politics and negotiations with F1 and FIA. It seemed he consistently made poor decisions. In my view, Ferrari hesitated to grant another team principal substantial power, which is why Vigna, an accomplished engineer himself, is now involved in running the F1 team. Additionally, Vasseur has been appointed General Manager, while Binotto’s previous role was Managing Director.

    5. Yeah, I can relate to that to an extent. Still

      emphasizing chassis and aerodynamics as the primary performance differentiators

      does also not sounds so bad to me. After all I still regard F1 as a championship in which a bunch of people get together to build a chassis – which to me is the frame, it’s suspension and the bodywork on top – and then go race each other to see who built the best car (obtaining a spec engine from somewhere). The engine never interested me much but I get it is also a vital discriminating part of the achievement innovative wise. However, I (personally) do not like engine manufacturers participating in F1 since it created too much of a competitive advantage. There role should be limited to supplying engines and be creative and innovative in building it for their clients. They themselves can then exploit it marketing wise. They were the one powering the successful Williams, McLaren, etc. As soon as they start their own team and on top of it also deliver the engine to client teams the whole thing becomes rather unfair.

  6. When the budget cap was introduced I said that if one team got things right and others didn’t we’d see at least one season where one team dominated and the rest wouldn’t catch up because the old paradigm of throwing $$ at a problem was no longer going to be available.

    Sadly, one team has gotten things very right, not for one season but for two.

    We can only hope that the others are working a lot better in designing their 2024 cars and we don’t see one car so far ahead next season. If it is, and based on this year’s efforts, it’s quite likely, we might be waiting until 2025 before we see a truly competitive season because it’s plainly obvious that if you’re off the pace at the start, there’s no longer the ability to spend your way out of being behind during any season.

    Kinda sad really that a season can be pretty much over after the first few races, but in time, teams will adjust.

    1. God, this argument is both trite and demonstrably wrong. In EVERY single generation of rules (all without budget caps), one team (if we were lucky, two) became dominant for years and the gap between last and first was enormous. Now the gap between 2-10 and is tiny compared to what it was and RBR’s dominance is solely due to Newey who has always been dominant. The only person who challenged his teams was Brawn who designed the 7-time champion Mercedes who made the decision to begin engine focused development years ahead of the new engine rule introduction.

      So, tell me, Nostradamus, when did no budget cap ever break another team’s dominance without rule changes? Can’t wait to hear.

  7. Given that the championship is decided and where Ferarri needs the most help is in testing aerodynamic concepts, they should just spend the rest of the year developing next year’s car. And it sounds like that is what they are doing.

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